Not knowing what to expect from the litigation process following a vehicle accident in San Francisco can keep you from filing a lawsuit and getting the compensation you deserve and need for your full and speedy recovery from the injuries you received from the accident. If the accident was caused by someone else’s negligence, it might be vital that you file a lawsuit to get a fair settlement. It is highly recommended that you seek professional help from an expert car accident attorney in San Francisco. Knowing about the basics can help you make up your mind to take legal action with confidence.
A Personal Injury Case
An injury is caused due to an accident in which one party is at fault, having committed negligence or intentional misconduct. Suppose the victim of the accident files a lawsuit against the person at fault. In that case, they become the ‘plaintiff’ in the personal injury case, and the accused party becomes the ‘defendant.’
You know you have a viable case for a vehicle accident in San Francisco if:
- You receive damages as a result of the accident.
- The other party was reckless, negligent, careless, or made a poor decision or judgment, either wholly or in part.
- You or the defending party have insurance coverage.
Insurance coverage is not required for filing a case, but you must receive monetary compensation. Suppose you or the defending party have insurance. In that case, the chances are that the insurance company will try to close the case outside the court, which is not so bad. Still, they often come up with their own calculations to total the amount of settlement. More often than not, the lump sum they offer you will be way less than what you can potentially get if you approach them through the court or a car accident attorney in San Francisco.
Accepting a settlement offer might be tempting, especially if you need the money. Still, a personal injury lawyer can inform you about the possible financial compensation you can get. They know all the factors that need to be accounted for, like pain and suffering, future medical bills, lost wages, etc. Once you accept a settlement offer, your case will be closed and cannot be reopened again. You will lose all the money you could have possibly gotten out of the accident. Remember, an insurance company always seeks its own benefits in your case while a car accident attorney in San Francisco is on your side.
Often, you do not feel any pain, or there are no apparent injuries right after the accident, and you choose not to file a case. But later on, injuries like neck, back, or joint pain can start taking their toll, and the time limit to start a litigation process might be over. Therefore, it is essential to seek medical help as soon as you are involved in an accident to discover the injuries and damages straight away. Also, sometimes, you might think you do not have enough legal factors on your side to win a settlement. Still, a personal injury lawyer is a better fit to evaluate your case. Therefore, you should hire one as soon as possible after an accident.
The California law puts a time limit, known as statutes of limitations, on the period after an accident. The victim can file a lawsuit against the negligent party. Generally, it is two years after the accident. Still, it is subject to change, and the limit is different for some other types of accidents. You can file a case against a physician’s negligence up to three years after the negligent act.
The Litigation Process
The first step you need to take after you decide to file a lawsuit against the negligent party following a vehicle accident in San Francisco is to hire a personal injury lawyer. Suppose you do not live in San Francisco and were visiting the place and got in an accident. In that case, you need a local car accident attorney in San Francisco.
Finding the Right Personal Injury Lawyer
Suppose you are eligible for compensation under the California Civil Code. In that case, it is essential to get an excellent personal injury lawyer b your side. Lawyers, like doctors, specialize in different domains, and a specialized personal injury lawyer knows all the ins and outs of a personal injury case. An experienced and expert car accident attorney in San Francisco will aid you throughout the litigation process, from collecting evidence to getting you the appropriate sum of money that you deserve.
They would help you with the documentation, advise you on the settlement offer you receive, prepare you for the deposition process, and assist you with all the requirements of succeeding in your lawsuit.
Filing the Claim
Your personal injury lawyer will help you prepare a draft for filing in the appropriate court. A vehicle accident in San Francisco is usually handled by the Superior Court. If the claim is for less than $10,000, the lawsuit is filed with the Small Claims division, but it is presented with the Civil division if it exceeds that amount. The fee for filing papers is $470 for claims exceeding $25,000. You can check the court’s fee schedule for more details in this regard.
The initial draft or papers you submit are known as ‘pleadings,’ including the petition and complaint. They cover and state the grounds of the case and name the liable party. The defendant gets notified through the summon present on the pleadings. The requested amount that you think is suitable is also stated on the pleadings.
The discovery phase begins as soon as the defendant of the case responds to your summon. This phase is aimed at cutting down the length of the trial phase. Discovery involves collecting information like texts, pictures, or documents regarding the accident from the other party that can serve as evidence in the case to support one’s argument. It is important to never accept your fault at the accident scene, as the information in the discovery phase involves everything that was done or said there.
Both the parties to the case present the judge with motions before the trial phase starts. Motions are applications requesting the judgment of the lawsuit before the trial to save everyone’s time. The rules for the litigation process, such as withholding specific evidence, are created through these motions. A motion can affect the defendants, courtroom, testimony, or trial, and only a judge can decide its outcome.
The last resort for preventing going to a trial is negotiations. They usually take place between both the attorneys in the presence of the parties. Your personal injury lawyer will try to negotiate for the highest possible amount of settlement. In contrast, the defendant’s attorney will try for you to settle for a low amount. If the negotiations do not succeed, the trial begins.
The trial involves presenting the argument before the judge with reasons why your claim is just and fair. Both the attorneys representing you and the defendant will present facts and evidence to back up their claims. The defendant’s lawyer will try to prove that you were partly or wholly at fault so that the judgment is made in their favor. After the arguments are exhausted at both ends, the jury sentences its final verdict.
A deposition involves the attorneys asking sets of questions from the opposing parties. It is a question and answers session where you will have to answer under an oath of honesty as the plaintiff and a witness to the incident. Attorneys use the deposition to prepare for trial, and it is essential in determining the result of the case. A court reporter is also present in the session and takes down all the answers in writing to make it official. The testimony can be used during the trial. A deposition can take place during discovery or before or during the trial.
The process usually occurs in a lawyer’s office. It can seem informal, but it is imperative as anything you say can be used against you. It is essential to be fully prepared for your deposition in a vehicle accident case in San Francisco
Preparing for Your Deposition
The defendant’s attorney will most likely be a professional and would know ways to get admissions out of you that can hurt your standing in the case. Explaining and ignoring the strong points of your case and emphasizing the strong points of the defendant are standard practices during depositions. Defendants’ lawyers are good at orchestrating suggestions that you are in error or not telling the truth by poking holes and ridiculing your story to confuse you. They come prepared with leading and confusing questions that aim towards putting words in your mouth.
These practices call for you to be truthful but prepared, cautious, and entirely on guard. Sitting down with your personal injury lawyer before the deposition and discussing everything will prepare you to defend your weak points and reiterate your strong ones. Discussions are healthy as they build confidence and refresh your memory of the incident. Suppose the accident inflicted injuries on you that harmed your life. In that case, you have the right to be compensated for it. Here are some tips that can help you ace your deposition confidently.
- Remember the Oath: A weak point in your story does not mean you will lose your case. Not being truthful and getting caught can hurt your argument far worse than telling the truth about a weak point. The key is to prepare for possible questions about your weak areas before the deposition process and answer them in ways that do not make them more ineffective. Remember, you are under the obligation to tell the truth, and that is what is in your best interest.
- Do Not Fall for the Silent Treatment: Sometimes, the defendant’s attorney might use silence accompanied with a tilted head, a raised eyebrow, or a look of disbelief after you have answered a question to compel you to keep talking or tweak your answer. It is just a tactic to get an answer out of you that would benefit their argument. Remember not to feel uncomfortable with silence and not feel compelled to say something even if you do.
- Practice Caution: Wait for the question to get completed and then take a pause to think about the answer you want to give. The delay allows you to carefully evaluate your response. It lets your attorney object to the question if they believe it is necessary. Keep your answers brief and to the point. You can hurt your case by giving away unnecessary information which can be used against you in the case or open up a separate line of tough questions. Listen to the questions carefully and ask for clarification if you do not understand or hear them properly.
- Stay Calm and Pleasant: Getting upset and defensive during a deposition can make you give weak answers. Some attorneys try to make you uncomfortable or angry by asking irrelevant and personal questions. Still, you need to make sure you stay professional and straightforward.
After being involved in a vehicle accident in the San Francisco area, the first thing you need to do is getting an urgent medical check up even if you do not feel an injury. The very next thing after that is to call a car accident attorney in San Francisco. They can set you up with their professional and experienced network of specialized doctors who treat auto accident victims. At Phoong Law, we can advise, support, and take care of the litigation process and get you the highest possible monetary settlement against the accident.